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Bout’s defence says jury prejudiced, intends to appeal verdict

November 05, 2011, 18:07 UTC+3

Moscow believes that the evidence collected against Bout "is too thin to make far-reaching accusations"

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NEW YORK, November 5 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian businessman Viktor Bout’s lawyers suspect that the jury that proclaimed his guilty on all four counts were prejudiced against their defendant and said they might appeal the verdict.

“Our lawyer Albert Dayan will raise this question with the federal judge next week, and we may even talk about case revision,” Bout’s wife, Alla, told Itar-Tass on Saturday, November 5.

The lawyer became suspicious after an interview given by one of the jury members, Heather Hobson, to the New York Times, in which she said that she had seen the film “Lord of War” based on Douglas Farah’s book “Merchant of Death”.

In the interview published ion November 3, Hobson did not say when exactly she had seen the movie, but admitted, “I had seen that terrible Nicolas Cage movie”, which is believed to have been inspired by Bout, “and I had no idea it was about this guy”.

Prior to the hearings, when interviewing the jury candidates, Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin asked them clear questions whether they knew anything about Bout and his activities in order to make sure they were impartial. She did not ask them about the film.

“The American film ‘Lord of War’ starring Nicolas Cage and released in 2005 slandered Viktor and destroyed his reputation,” Alla Bout went on to say. “The film proved to be quite resonant, made millions [of U.S. dollars] and there are gigabytes of information and different opinions on the Internet that link the authors’ plot with Viktor Bout… Literally every article both in Russian and foreign forums said that my husband served as the prototype for the main hero.”

“Heather Hobson is a computer specialist and undoubtedly has access to the Internet, and we do not believe that before the hearings Hobson did not know about the plot being linked to Viktor Bout. This certainly could not but influence the opinion of at least one member of the jury,” Alla said.

“The lawyer and Viktor think that it is this popular film that influenced the decision of the jury. Otherwise, he could not have been fond guilty on all counts. Moreover, Albert Dayan is confident that, judging from the arguments presented, the truth was on the side of his defendant and we could expect not only doubts among the members of the jury or partial acquittal, but the dropping of all charges,” she said.

Alla said earlier she doubted that the trial of her would be impartial and correct.

“Viktor’s case has become a political one. I doubt that it will be a correct and impartial trial and won’t be lobbied by the U.S. government,” Alla Bout said at a roundtable hosted by the State Duma.

She noted how much money had been spent to hype the case.

“My husband continues to be demonised in the U.S.,” she said. “We also have questions about Viktor’s being held in prison, why it is a special unit and why maximum security.”

There has been no reply from the American side to any of the inquiries sent by the Russian Embassy in the U.S. and Bout’s lawyers, she said.

She recalled that psychological pressure had been exerted on Bout many times during his extradition from Thailand to the U.S. “These methods cannot be called appropriate,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier.

Moscow believes that the evidence collected against Bout “is too thin to make far-reaching accusations”, he said.

The ministry thinks that a situation where Russian citizens fall victim to U.S. justice on the basis of broad interpretation of law is unacceptable.

“We keep on stressing the unacceptability of the situation where a number of Russian citizens fall victim to the application of American legislation and American legislative norms on an exterritorial basis, on the basis of broad interpretation of American laws and the possibility of its extrapolation, including outside the United States,” the diplomat said.

Russian lawmakers met with five U.S. congressmen led by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia chairman on July 1 to discuss this issue among others.

On November 2, the jury at a New York court proclaimed Bout guilty on all four counts.

According to the charges brought against Bout, 44, he may face from 25 years in prison to life imprisonment.

Dayan quoted his defendant as saying that the struggle in the American court “is not over yet and there are chances to be freed”.

Dayan said the defence would appeal within 30 days.

“We are strongly disappointed by the jury’s decision. But this is not the end. This is the beginning of our new struggle,” he said.

Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March 2008 at a U.S. request and extradited to the U.S. in November 2010. He has been charged with masterminding the sale of a large shipment of arms.

Four charges have been brought against him: criminal conspiracy to kill US nationals, conspiracy to kill officials in public service, criminal conspiracy to purchase and sell antiaircraft missiles and criminal conspiracy to supply weapons to terrorist groups. The Russian citizen has pleaded not guilty on all the points.

The verdict in the Bout case will be handed down on February 8, 2012.

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